By Rich Palzewic
GREEN BAY – Max Wagner, a 2020 Green Bay Preble graduate and Clemson University baseball commit, was recently named the Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year.
Last season, Wagner was named the state’s Prep Baseball Report Player of the Year, but this year’s award marked the first time a Preble baseball athlete received the honor.
“It’s truly an honor, and I feel blessed to receive such an award,” said Wagner, who was the player of the year in the Fox River Classic Conference during his first three seasons at Preble. “I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was in the running for it last year, but with not having a season this year (due to the COVID-19 pandemic), I didn’t think they’d have an award.”
With no games played this spring, the award was given to a player based on previous accomplishments entering the season.
In its 35th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, Wagner joined former West De Pere pitcher Jason Berken (2002) as the only other Green Bay metro area winner.
Berken played in the Majors for four years with the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago Cubs.
The award, which recognizes athletic excellence and academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, qualifies Wagner as a finalist for the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year.
In all, 607 athletes are honored each year by Gatorade across the country in eight different sports.
Wagner, a 6-foot, 190-pound shortstop and right-handed pitcher, concluded his high school career with a 16-3 record on the mound.
He had a 0.82 earned-run average and recorded 177 strikeouts in 128.2 innings pitched.
A two-time, first-team all-state selection, Wagner posted a .457 batting average during his career with 28 doubles, 86 runs scored, 69 RBI and 36 steals while posting a .569 on-base percentage.
He was 8-2 on the mound as a junior with a 0.69 ERA while batting .500 with five home runs and 39 RBI.
Wagner, who helped lead the Hornets to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament three consecutive seasons, will be heading to Clemson a little later than expected this summer.
“I was supposed to go in late June, but that’s been pushed back a little,” he said. “A few weeks ago, I was told our summer session was canceled due to the virus, and I’ll report around August 7.”
Preble head coach Andy Conard said Wagner is one of the best he’s ever coached.
“I’ve coached many outstanding players over the years,” he said. “I don’t like getting into ranking athletes, but I can’t think of too many that would take a back seat to Max. He’s an elite player and has so many intangibles that make him a great player – he’s the whole package. Kids like him don’t come around often.”
Conard, a teacher at De Pere, has been coaching various levels of baseball for 29 years.
“Max has been the recipient of many well-deserved awards already in his career,” Conard said. “An award like this is the one that grabs your attention. There’s a prestige that comes with it and validates what you’ve done as a player and a leader. Your ability on the field is important, but Max has outstanding character and is an excellent student off the field.”
Wagner had a 3.55 grade-point average.
Conard said the sky is the limit for how far Wagner can go.
“I wouldn’t put any limitations on the heights he can achieve,” he said. “He was primed to have a great season after an outstanding junior year. He continues to develop, and once he jumps up in competition, his play will elevate. His game is geared toward the highest level of competition. He has an even-keel demeanor and is very cerebral in his approach.”
Editor’s note: Maddie Koch (volleyball, Ashwaubenon, 2019), Alec Ingold (football, Bay Port, 2014), Emma Nagel (soccer, Bay Port, 2019) and track and field athletes Chad Yenchesky (De Pere, 1993) and Steve Marcelle (Preble, 2005) also won Gatorade Player of the Year awards in their respective sports.